The National Fellowship of Hispanic Southern Baptist Churches, in a gathering intense in worship, held its ninth annual congress at Iglesia Bautista Casa de Dios in Wichita, Kan., where Abraham Arevalo is pastor.
About 80 people from 24 churches participated in the Oct. 27-29 sessions, reported Elias Bracamonte, first vice president of the organization named in Spanish the Confraternidad Nacional de Iglesias Hispanas Bautistas del Sur.
The fellowship's leadership voted to move the annual gathering to June to coincide with the SBC annual meeting.
"The reason for the change is to join with all the other ethnic fellowships that have their meetings then, and to be more supportive of SBC causes," said Bracamonte, associate pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. "We want to help out, to be able to teach our churches about Southern Baptists and to bring awareness of giving to missions through the Cooperative Program.
"We need to see what we can do to be involved and reach the world for Christ," Bracamonte said. "The Hispanic people group is the largest ethnic people group in the United States. We want to see more baptisms; that's the bottom line."
The Hispanic Fellowship elects officers on a rolling basis, two each year for three-year terms, to maintain organizational continuity. Roberto Lopez of Ocala, Fla., is the executive director in his second year of a four-year term while Walter Montalvo of New York City is in his third year as president and Bracamonte is in his second year as first vice president.
In their second years of service are Walter Loyola of Los Angeles as second vice president; Maria Gonzalez of Miami as secretary; and Juan Barcos of Miami as treasurer.
Rudy Gonzalez was this year's keynote speaker and Beto Silva served as worship leader.
Gonzalez is professor of New Testament at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and director of the seminary's extension center in San Antonio. Silva is a Mexico-born singer/songwriter/guitarist from Norfolk, Neb., who recently released his third and fourth CDs, one in English and the other in Spanish.
Ken Weathersby, vice president for convention advancement with the SBC Executive Committee, and Ramon Osorio, national church mobilizer for the North American Mission Board, sent greetings to the fellowship from their respective organizations.
"Prayer and Awakening" was the congress theme and Habakkuk 3:2 its Scripture: "LORD, I have heard the report about You; LORD, I stand in awe of Your deeds. Revive Your work in these years; make it known in these years. In Your wrath remember mercy!" (HCSB)
Gonzalez spoke from three Scripture passages—Habakkuk 3:2-3, Amos 8:11-12 and Luke 1:1-13—underscoring the need for Hispanic pastors throughout the Southern Baptist Convention to foster a desire for true spiritual awakening through prayer.
In the selected passages, Gonzalez preached that "believers are called to discern the times in which they live and pray in a way that speaks directly to the times. We are living in unprecedented days of 'societal madness' and the church must rise to the challenge by being fervent in the Word of God and desiring prayer with great hunger."
Gonzalez encouraged attendees to know and believe that God feeds such hunger "through the bounty of His Holy Spirit" in the life of each believer.
"Throughout all three days there was much prayer going on," Bracamonte said. "Each day, 30 minutes. Friday morning, 50 minutes dedicated to prayer. Saturday was a challenging time for all of us to recommit ourselves toward the Word of God."
Silva has been asked to be the worship leader at the Hispanic fellowship's annual meeting in conjunction with the SBC's June 13-14 annual meeting in Phoenix. At that time, the event known to Hispanics as a "congress" will become known as a "fellowship meeting," Bracamonte said, and is scheduled for the afternoon of June 11.
The National Fellowship of Hispanic Southern Baptist Churches, organized in the mid-1980s, now encompasses about 3,500 churches across the United States. The group plans to regionalize its member churches next year in order to make a stronger, more unified presence among Hispanic churches and at state fellowships, Bracamonte said.
A parallel group for Hispanic pastors, the Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance, organized in St. Louis this summer, also meets concurrently with the SBC annual meeting. Its inaugural meeting featured a dinner, TED-styled talks and panel discussion.
The annual AVANCE dinner and Hispanic celebration, meanwhile, is a separate event on Sunday evening before the start of the SBC annual meeting sponsored by the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, GuideStone Financial Resources and the SBC Executive Committee.
"We want to thank Dr. Frank Page [EC president] and Dr. Ken Weathersby for their support and their desire and awareness of reaching the Hispanic people group," Bracamonte said. "We are very grateful for what they have done thus far."
Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press (bpnews.net).